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30Q: Can one of the Rookies earn playing time?

Could Justin James or Kyle Guy earn minutes in Sacramento this season? With the Kings depth, it’s unlikely, but not impossible.

2019 California Classic - Golden State Warriors v Sacramento Kings Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

On paper, the Sacramento Kings have a deep roster. The squad has arguably 12 players who deserve playing time, and you have to go back to the golden era of the franchise to find a Sacramento roster this deep with legitimate NBA players. And while the 2018-19 Kings don’t have the same expectations as the 2003-04 squad, their depth does share a similarity; viable minutes for their rookies are likely non-existent, baring some terrible injury luck or an unexpected rookie explosion. Could either Justin James or Kyle Guy, both 2nd round selections from the 2019 NBA Draft, earn some playing time with Sacramento? It’s unlikely, but not impossible.

Justin James signed a three year minimum contract with the squad back in July. His contract is not a two-way option, so he’s part of the Kings 15 man roster; as such, he’s the most likely of the rookies to earn spot minutes in blowouts. In the Kings summer league contests, James had some ups and downs as a scorer; he shot just 25% in the California Classic, but rebounded in Las Vegas and averaged 11.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 2 assists per contest on 57% shooting. More important, he showed himself to be a dedicated defender with some positional versatility, and he proved himself a willing distributor. While the Kings roster is especially deep at the point and in the paint, there’s less depth on the wing; if something happens to Buddy Hield or Bogdan Bogdanović, Luke Walton could opt to run more two point guard sets with Cory Joseph or Yogi Ferrell, but it could also open some playing time for James. Still, it’s more likely that he spends the majority of the season on the bench or with the G-League Stockton Kings squad.

Kyle Guy quickly became a fan favorite in Summer League; the former Virginia Cavalier showcased his deadeye range from deep, played tough beyond his skinny frame, and kept the ball moving. The Kings inked Guy to a two-way deal in the middle of Summer League, which allows them to keep Guy with the Stockton Kings and bring him up to the Sacramento roster for up to 45 days. A season in Stockton is probably best for Guy as he learns to handle the speed and physicality of the pros—note that Virginia was the lowest pace team in the nation over the last two years, so it’ll likely take Guy and his 6’2, 170 lbs frame some time to adjust to the style the Kings want to run. But if there is anything college basketball fans learned over the last 24 months, it’s not to doubt Kyle Guy; Guy could give some spot minutes to Sacramento if the Kings guard rotation ends up needing more firepower.

The Kings final draft selection, Vanja Marinkovic, signed a two-year contract with the EuroLeague squad Valencia. The contract reported was expected to include an NBA opt-out clause, but if the Kings were planning on having the 22 year old Vanja with the team this season—or in Stockton, for that matter—he would have almost certainly relocated to California already. Given the Kings guard depth and the two other rookies already inked to contracts, allowing Vanja to continue to develop in EuroLeague is a smart move.

And finally, it would be remiss not to mention Wenyen Gabriel. Sure, he’s not a rookie by the NBA’s legal definition—he played plenty for the Stockton Kings last season, and spent time with the parent club in Sacramento—but the former Kentucky Wildcat has yet to play a real NBA minute yet, so we’ll call him a Ben Simmons rookie. Gabriel was the Kings best player in Summer League, averaging 15.3 points and 7.4 rebounds across his six games while shooting 41.3% from deep. He primarily played as a big in Stockton, but could play as a swing-forward for the Kings, especially if his deep shot remains locked in. He’s on the second year of his two-year, two-way deal, so the upcoming training camp is the time for Gabriel to prove he belongs in the Kings’ long term plans.